HAVANA, Cuba. – For each new bed sheet, towel, tablecloth or curtain used for the first time at the new hotel located on First and D Streets in El Vedado, which is due to open any day now, the Havana rep for the Mexican company Almacenes El Trébol, S.A. de C.V. will pocket in her personal fortune a few more US Dollars since her business services, authorized more than 20 years ago by Cuba’s Chamber of Commerce, are paid through generous commissions from her sales to the tourism sector.
It is said that her honoraria fetch between 3% and 5% of total sales, and that she receives preferential treatment in detriment of the rest of sector providers. The more contracts she manages to close on, the more money this shrewd rep of Almacenes El Trébol receives. This means that the opening of new hotels in the island will always be good news to celebrate, especially because she enjoys the certainty that the Mexican company which sells Cuba its textile production will win the most important contracts, or at the very least, those contracts where the Armed Forces corporate system –GAESA– is involved.
According to sources linked to the Mexican company and to Gaviota S.A. (a GAESA entity), in spite of the fact that the agreement between Almacenes El Trébol and Cuba’s military is only a verbal agreement, it’s an old one from Fidel Castro’s time which no one dares to ignore or to sever due to the serious political implications that such a decision could entail.
It’s not just about ceasing to honor an old trade agreement, but about opening a Pandora’s box that would unleash evils that lurk beyond the mere import of textiles, and into the labyrinth of what really occurs with the so-called “Groups of Solidarity with Cuba” and their true support infrastructures, which generally include economic interests.
Almacenes El Trébol rep in Cuba is no ordinary foreign businesswoman. She is none other than the Argentinian Graciela Ramírez Cruz, an extreme leftist political activist who established herself officially in Havana in 1994. Among the many “assignments” the regime has entrusted her with are: to serve as “advisor to the news media to show [positively] the reality of Cuba”, as well as to serve as “general coordinator” of the international campaign for the release of five Cuban spies jailed in the U.S. in 1998.
The Many Faces of Graciela
A political activist and businesswoman –two occupations that in any other context would be mutually exclusive- Argentinian Graciela Ramírez Cruz has managed to do both to perfection, due to her bonds with the Cuban dictatorship, which she has served –at its request- numerous times.
Although many people feel that this relationship started in the early 90s, when she joined the solidarity-with-Cuba movements and became the main coordinator of the welcoming campaign in honor of Fidel Castro to the Ibero-American Summit in Madrid in 1992, in reality the roots of this link are older.
It was during the 1960s that Cuban intelligence, through its embassies abroad and through institutions that passed for “cultural”, like Casa de las Américas and later the Instituto Cubano de Amistad con los Pueblos (ICAP), started to work toward articulating and influencing guerrilla groups and other “pro-Castro” leftist movements in countries of the southern cone, and especially Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina, where working with student movements at universities, institutes and human rights groups was easier and, as a result, more thorough than in other countries in Latin America.